First impressions for those looking for something different are good as there is a story running throughout the course of the game, a feature lacking in most examples of the genre. It follows Raphael, a seemingly ordinary teenager who in fact leads a double life, becoming infamous Paris thief Phantom R to steal, and subsequently return, famous pieces of art. After learning that a bracelet on display in The Louvre has a similar mark to that on a coin left behind by his father a few years prior, Raphael begins his journey to investigate the matter.
This setup leads nicely into the story mode. Traversing something of a world map on the upper screen, moving from one predetermined point to another, the player progresses through the game interacting with other characters, solving puzzles and taking part in rhythm based mini-games. Whilst talking to certain people is necessary in order to move the story forward, the player is free to, and indeed encouraged to, tap the screen in random places and also talk to all characters in a particular spot. Doing so will not only (in a move strongly evoking the Professor Layton series) reveal hidden medals, which are used to buy items and unlock video clips, but also allow optional mini-games to be tackled.
Further setting itself from the usual in terms of what is expected from a Rhythm Action experience, the "songs" throughout aren't the same as you would find in most other similar games, from Rock Band to Samba de Amigo to Taiko no Tatsujin. Although it's true that there is the occasional traditional song, most of the fifty mini-games are based around rhythm rather than music. Think those found in Nintendo's Rhythm Heaven series and you're on the right track. It may be cooking food, catching meat with canine sidekick Fondue, hiding behind statues to avoid being spotted by guards, fighting off enemies and so on. Each one is quick and easy to grasp to the point where hunting out and playing them is enjoyable. As well as being simple, they make great use of the features of the 3DS. Some require tapping and swiping on the touch screen, some favour button inputs and there are even cases where the systems gyro controls are brought into play. Seasoned Sega fans will want to make sure to hunt as many mini-games out as possible as there are a couple of less than subtle nods to the developers classic rhythm based back catalogue.
Another clever unique feature is the requirement to tap on certain items and animals to record their sound. For instance, tapping on that barking dog in one location will add it to the sound bank and calling it up to distract that stubborn guard who it just happens is afraid of dogs will allow progression. The cases where this feature is needed are quite frequent but rarely will it prove to be anything more than a minor inconvenience when trying to work out which sound is needed. This is made all the more obvious given that a red line is traced on the upper screen from the players position to the location where the sound is question is located. Additionally, puzzles will crop up from time to time. Whilst nothing particularly taxing, they fit the mould of much of the rest of the game in that they are rhythm based (follow a sequence of button presses, tap the right numbers to unlock a safe and so on), and provide a welcome change of pace from the speed of the music based mini-games.
The overall difficulty is on the low side. This is best illustrated by the fact that although missing a note or beat will severely reduce the players constantly building score meter (known as the Groove Gauge), as long as it doesn't completely run out each mini-game can be passed no matter the grade awarded once finished. Ranging from E to A, those wanting to maximise score and overall completion will want to stay as close to a top rating as possible, but there shouldn't prove too many hurdles or tricky spots for those more concerned with story progression. That being said, there is the occasional difficulty spike, usually occurring whenever the gyro controls are required. That's not to say the implementation of this feature is lacklustre, more that it may take a couple of failed attempts before the sensitivity is grown accustomed to.
As well as the low overall difficulty, the story and setting also hint that the target audience is on the younger side. The way things are presented though is for the most part above average. With the Parisian setting comes the expected French locales and music and whilst the former involves some nice character designs and excellent anime cut scenes (despite the French backdrop, the art style is actually very Japanese), the latter really excels to the point where simply standing idle on the world map screen and taking in the background music becomes a joy. One, more negative aspect of the presentation is the voice acting. It is in line with what would be expected from this sort of Saturday morning children's TV series type of setting, but whereas important scenes are fully voiced, the application of this throughout the rest of the game is patchy. The subtitles also, on quite a few occasions, don't match up to what is being said. A minor point maybe, but one that shows a lack of polish and becomes all the more obvious and glaring in the face of the excellent music referenced earlier.
The easiest way to describe Rhythm Thief is a cross between the Professor Layton and Rhythm Heaven series. It may lack the personality and complex puzzles of the former and the undeniable charm of the latter, but taken on its own it doesn't disappoint. Those looking for a challenge won't find it here, but it makes up for that with the variety of mini-games throughout as well as, for the most part, the presentation. Playing through the story will take eight to ten hours but there is the potential for replay value with unlockable content ranging from Hard Mode to Marathon Mode, new chapters and a gallery where the soundtrack and movie clips can be enjoyed. A local multiplayer option also exists, allowing two players to tackle songs together.
- Lots of variety.
- Great music.
- Lacks challenge.
- Visual style not for everyone.
Other Versions: N/A
Version Reviewed: PAL